By Lauren Levine
Charlotte’s known for being an especially dog-friendly city. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find yourself winding through the crowd in a brewery, clutching a beer and staring at the floor to make sure you’re not about to trip over someone’s beloved four-legged friend, or to peruse the racks at Neiman Marcus alongside a cultured pup. Here in the Queen City, it’s likely that Fido and Fifi are just as welcome anywhere as you. So, if you’re looking to get out and about with your fur baby in tow, here’s where to go.
However you prefer to spend your weekends, Charlotte features plenty of options for you and a furry friend. Seeking thrills at the U.S. National Whitewater Center? Take your leashed dog with you one of the many scenic trails. Never knew you could bring a dog to a gallery? Twenty-Two, the funky gallery nestled beneath Soul Gastrolounge in Plaza Midwood, welcomes pets and their artistic owners. When it’s caffeine you crave, bring your pup along for a pit stop at Smelly Cat Coffeehouse in NoDa; he or she will probably love the name. And when the two of you need to get some exercise, take advantage of Charlotte’s moderate climate and spend a day at one of the city’s many parks or Crowders Mountain State Park. McDowell Nature Center and Preserve features nine trails for you to enjoy; just be sure to keep your dog on a leash 6 feet long or shorter.
If sitting outside on a patio enjoying your favorite local cold one is your thing, you’re in luck. Many of the area’s breweries and bars are known for welcoming dogs in their outdoor spaces. Among the list of watering holes where your pooch can plop down beside you are Sycamore Brewing, Triple C Brewing Co., Angry Ale’s, NoDa Brewing Company, Brazwell’s Premium Pub, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Birdsong Brewing Co., among others. The Dog Bar in NoDa and Lucky Dog Bark & Brew in Cornelius (a Charlotte location will open this spring) are two popular spots specifically designed for craft brew lovers to sip and socialize with dogs in tow. And the two of you can enjoy a bone and a bite at Pinky’s Westside Grill.
If your family and friends are starting to think your love for your dog is a little unhealthy, it’s time to expand your social circle and meet others whose smartphones are just as packed with puppy portraits. Meetups, facilitated locally through meetup.com, are a great way to build friendships with fellow dog-minded Charlotteans. Depending on your interests, join groups, like the Charlotte Run with Your Dog meetup or the Dogs and Drinks meetup. If you’re particularly proud of your pooch’s refined heritage, try joining groups like the Charlotte Pug meetup or the Charlotte Standard Poodle meetup.
After a day of activities, extra-good boys and girls deserve a trip to Canine Café. The store features an on-site, dog-friendly bakery as well as all-natural dog food and pet supplies. Humans celebrate their birthdays, so why shouldn’t dogs? When your pup’s special day rolls around, Canine Café will customize a cake, right down to a fire hydrant design, just for the occasion.
When work or vacations call you away, you want to make sure your dog is well cared for. Thanks to Charlotte’s luxe lodging options, like Pet Paradise, he or she will probably consider it a spa vacation. Here Fido can enjoy lounging in a bone-shaped pool, relaxing at story time and socializing with other dogs. Live webcams even make it possible for protective owners to check in on their beloved pups at any time, guaranteeing peace of mind. For overnight stays or simply a little extra exercise while you’re away during the day, drop your dog off at Club Fetch in South End. Play areas are selected based on your pooch’s energy level and personality, so he or she will always feel right at home.
If you’re tagging along on your pup’s playdates but want to give him or her room to run, a trip to Davie Dog Park at William R. Davie District Park will do the trick. It’s home to a 5-acre, fenced-in area where dogs can run and play off leash. Separate areas for both large and small dogs means everyone can safely enjoy the experience. Another popular spot for dogs of all sizes is Frazier Park, a 12-acre urban park located in Third Ward.
Get out in the Charlotte community and support your favorite animal welfare causes this season at an array of Queen City events. Register for the Pet Palooza Festival and Walk for the Animals, benefitting the Humane Society of Charlotte, at Independence Park in Elizabeth on April 9. Dogs and their humans will enjoy a fundraising walk, pet-friendly festivities, demonstrations, contests and more. There’s even a beer garden.
Animal lovers looking for an elegant evening will enjoy the annual Ties and Tails Gala, also hosted by the Humane Society of Charlotte. Last year’s event drew nearly 500 people, plus a number of their furry companions. The fun, which takes place each year at The Westin Charlotte, includes a live auction, a chance to have your dog’s photograph taken by a professional photographer and a program featuring well-known Charlotte media personalities. Bonus: should you choose to turn your evening into an overnight stay, The Westin Charlotte will welcome you and your dog (weighing up to 50 pounds) in any of its rooms. Plus, the hotel will provide Fido with his own Westin Heavenly® Dog Bed, a welcome kit, food bowls and a mat.
A number of annual Charlotte-area events are dedicated to celebrating dogs and their owners. Enjoy live performances, tasty bites, contests and more with your favorite plus-one at this spring’s Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival Presented by Purina and Harris Teeter. Sip beer or wine and mingle with other owners as you and your pooch watch the sheep herding competition at the Rural Hill Sheep Dog Trials and Dog Festival. Or go wild at Dogtoberfest, where a pre-event dog jog, live music, dog canvas paw painting and a dog and human costume contest headline the fun, which benefits Dog Days of Charlotte, each fall.
This article ran in the March 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings.